Germany aims to start coronavirus vaccinations on December 27th

Germany will begin coronavirus vaccinations on December 27th with elderly care home residents, Health Minister Jens Spahn announced Wednesday.

Germany aims to start coronavirus vaccinations on December 27th
Germany is preparing for vaccinations. This centre is in Thuringia. Photo: DPA

In a statement, Germany's 16 state-level health ministers said Spahn had announced “the expected approval and supply of the BioNTech vaccine” next week, with distribution beginning shortly before year's end.

As Germany holds the EU's rotating presidency, that could mean December 27th will be the start date for all member countries.

Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to hold a discussion with BioNTech founders Ugur Sahin and Özlem Türeci in a video conference on Thursday. Health Minister Spahn and Research Minister Anja Karliczek are also to take part.

READ ALSO: The German husband and wife team behind the Covid-19 vaccine

Once the vaccine is approved by the EU, Germany's vaccine batches will also be examined by the federal government's Paul Ehrlich Institute.

Also Wednesday. French Prime Minister Jean Castex said that France could begin vaccinations “in the last week of December” if “all conditions are met”.

And European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said that all the bloc's countries could begin on the same day once the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved.

The Commission will make the final call on authorisation once the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has issued its final verdict — now expected on December 21st after the timetable was moved up a week.

But several days could pass between the EMA ruling and the Commission's green light, as Brussels must first consult with member states.

Castex said that between now and February, France will take delivery of some 3.5 million doses, enough to cover around 1.7 million people, and will also prioritise the elderly, the vulnerable and carers.

Covid vaccines are administered in two doses over several weeks.

Pfizer-BioNTech's jab has already been approved in several western countries, with Britain and the US administering the first inoculations in recent days.

Some other states around the world have also waved it through, including Mexico and Saudi Arabia.

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EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point.